Thursday’s quarterfinal rounds of the 2014 USA Boxing Junior Olympic National Championships at the Charleston Civic Center was a homecoming of sorts for former Charleston resident and standout boxer Joey “Bazooka Joe” Veazey.
Veazey, whose father’s side of the family hails from Pratt, received some local support from the Kanawha Valley in his first bout of the tournament.
“I love to have people here. The more the better,” said Veazey. “When I went to fight up in Philadelphia, I had people there and I have a big following in Baltimore, so to come to a place that we don’t visit very often, it’s great that I have local family.”
Veazey gave the hometown crowd plenty to cheer about, earning 2-1 split-decision victory over Miguel Contreras Thursday evening. He will fight today in the semifinal rounds.
Veazey’s father, Vince, is originally from Maryland and moved to Charleston after meeting his wife here. He took a job working at Mount Olive Correctional Complex before moving back to Maryland when Joey was three.
“We were thinking about moving back to Maryland but weren’t sure, and then our house burnt to the ground while we were on vacation,” said Vince Veazey. “I said, ‘Well, we don’t have anything to move now, that’ll make it easy.’ ”
A sophomore at Northeast High School in Pasadena, Md., Joey Veazey took to boxing at an early age, learning from his father, a former trainer.
“I had some experience with the Toughman Contest and some amateur boxing experience, but I was a little too small for Toughman and a little too old for boxing — I was about 38 at the time,” said the elder Veazey. “So I started helping out in my buddy’s gym. The gym was Joey’s babysitter.”
Joey Veazey fought his first match at age seven and has since turned into a 16-year-old, 145-pound phenom, capturing numerous boxing championships. He is a six-time local Silver Gloves champion, a two-time regional champion and a one-time National Silver Gloves winner and 2009 Ringside World champion.
“I realized a few years ago that I was pretty good once I started winning all these national titles,” he said. “I’m just trying to get as much amateur experience as I can and one day turn pro.”
Veazey attributes his success to his workout regiment. He spends close to three hours a day, five to six days week, training and also works with younger boxers on the side. Two days a week, the Veazeys travel to surrounding areas to get in some sparring with different fighters. This is the first time Veazey is competing in the Junior National Championships.
“My overall record is about 55-20, but I’d say I’m 20-2 in tournaments,” he said. “Tournaments are where I shine.”
Veazey looked to continue that success, taking on Miguel Contreras of Bakersfield, Calif., in the evening session of Thursday’s quarterfinals.
“It’s great for him to be able to come back to the town of his birth and hopefully win a championship,” said Vince Veazey.
Another boxer from this week’s tournament has a tie to the Mountain State, albeit a little more indirectly. Jayda Thomas (119 pounds) trains out of the world-renowned Kronk Gym in Detroit, which was led by legendary trainer and Bottom Creek native Emanuel Steward. Steward trained 41 world champion fighters throughout his career, most notably Lennox Lewis and Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns.
Thomas, who is the defending 2013 champion and most outstanding boxer award winner from last year, defeated Juanita Chavez of Racine, Wis., by a first-round TKO in the quarterfinals.
The semifinal rounds start today with the early session beginning at noon and the evening session set to begin at 6 p.m. Saturday’s championship rounds start at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 per session.